Autonomous Robot Starts Work as Office Manager

Programmed with the latest artificial intelligence software, Betty will spend the next two months working as an office manager at Transport Systems Catapult monitoring staff and check environmental conditions.

The robot, developed by engineers at the University of Birmingham, uses NVIDIA GPUs for various forms of computer vision — like feature extraction — and 3D image processing to create a map of the surrounding area. This allows Betty to identify desks, chairs and other objects that she must negotiate while moving around the office, and observe her colleague’s movement through activity recognition.

“For robots to work alongside humans in normal work environments it is important that they are both robust enough to operate autonomously without expert help, and that they learn to adapt to their environments to improve their performance,” said Dr Nick Hawes, from the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham. “Betty demonstrates both these abilities in a real working environment: we expect her to operate for two months without expert input, whilst using cutting-edge AI techniques to increase her understanding of the world around her.”

Betty is part of an EU-funded STRANDS project where robots are learning how to act intelligently and independently in real-world environments while understanding 3D space.